Southern Honor: Ethics And Behavior In The Old South

Paperback | September 14, 2007

byBertram Wyatt-Brown

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A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, hailed in The Washington Post as "a work of enormous imagination and enterprise" and in The New York Times as "an important, original book," Southern Honor revolutionized our understanding of the antebellum South, revealing howSouthern men adopted an ancient honor code that shaped their society from top to bottom. Using legal documents, letters, diaries, and newspaper columns, Wyatt-Brown offers fascinating examples to illuminate the dynamics of Southern life throughout the antebellum period. He describes how Southern whites, living chiefly in small, rural, agrarian surroundings, in which everyoneknew everyone else, established the local hierarchy of kinfolk and neighbors according to their individual and familial reputation. By claiming honor and dreading shame, they controlled their slaves, ruled their households, established the social rankings of themselves, kinfolk, and neighbors, andresponded ferociously against perceived threats. The shamed and shameless sometimes suffered grievously for defying community norms. Wyatt-Brown further explains how a Southern elite refined the ethic. Learning, gentlemanly behavior, and deliberate rather than reckless resort to arms softened thecruder form, which the author calls "primal honor." In either case, honor required men to demonstrate their prowess and engage in fierce defense of individual, family, community, and regional reputation by duel, physical encounter, or war. Subordination of African-Americans was uppermost in thisSouthern ethic. Any threat, whether from the slaves themselves or from outside agitation, had to be met forcefully. Slavery was the root cause of the Civil War, but, according to Wyatt-Brown, honor pulled the trigger. Featuring a new introduction by the author, this anniversary edition of a classic work offers readers a compelling view of Southern culture before the Civil War.

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A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, hailed in The Washington Post as "a work of enormous imagination and enterprise" and in The New York Times as "an important, original book," Southern Honor revolutionized our understanding of the antebellum South, revealing howSouthern men adopted an ancient honor code that...

Bertram Wyatt-Brown is Richard J. Milbauer Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida and a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. The author of House of Percy: Honor, Melancholy, and Imagination in a Southern Family and The Shaping of Southern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, he is past president of the Southern Historical...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:648 pages, 5.31 × 7.8 × 1.3 inPublished:September 14, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195325176

ISBN - 13:9780195325171

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Table of Contents

Preface to Twenty-Fifth Anniversary EditionPart One: Origins and Definitions1. Honor in Literary Perspective2. Primal Honor: Valor, Blood, and Bonding3. Primal Honor: The Tensions of Patriarchy4. GentilityPart Two: Family and Gender Behavior5. Fathers, Mothers, and Progeny6. Male Youth and Honor7. A Young Man's Career: Cultural and Familial Limits8. Strategies of Courtship and Marriage9. Women in a Man's World: Role and Self-Image10. Law, Property, and Male Dominance11. Male Custom in Family Life12. Status, Law, and Sexual MisconductPart Three: Structures of Rivalry and Social Control13. Personal Strategies and Community Life: Hospitality, Gambling, and Combat14. Honor, Shame, and Justice in a Slavocracy15. Policing Slave Society: Insurrectionary Scares16. Charivari and Lynch Law17. The Anatomy of a Wife-KillingList of Abbreviations and Short TitlesNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"Unlike so many historians who have been interested in handing down judgments, favorable or unfavorable, on the Old South, Mr. Wyatt-Brown has studied Southerners much as an anthropologist would an aboriginal tribe. An important, original book which challenges so many widely held beliefs aboutthe Old South." --David Herbert Donald, The New York Times